So many times, it’s easier to grab something on the way home or order pizza.
Eating healthy meals while budgeting your money (and time) can be difficult. Trust me, I get it. My husband and I don’t have children yet, but even for just the two of us, it can be daunting to take the time to prepare three healthy meals a day, especially after long days at work and school. So many times, it’s easier to grab something on the way home or order pizza. The downfall with this strategy is that you and your family are missing vital nutrients that come with eating healthy, nutritious meals on a daily basis. There are a few things my husband and I do to help us eat healthy meals regularly:
- Plan meals ahead of time. Planning meals makes fixing dinner — and subsequently, the next day’s lunch — a much easier task. It eliminates the “What are we going to have for dinner?” conversation on the way home from work, and the “We don’t have anything thawed out, so let’s just go out” solution that often results. Each week, make a list of all the breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks you’ll need. Check out what ingredients you already have and write down groceries to buy. Be sure to note any events that affect the week’s meals — are you attending a potluck dinner? Working late one night? Going out of town?
- Use a slow cooker. We use ours at least once a week, especially in the winter when we can’t use the grill, which is our go-to for most spring and summer dinners. Chop vegetables and do other preparation for your slow-cooker meal the night before and store it in the refrigerator. Having it ready to go in the morning can be a huge time-saver — just pop it in the slow cooker before everyone is out the door for work or school.
- Remember that sales and coupons are your friends. Take these into account when you plan your meals for the week and you can reduce your grocery bill significantly. While many coupons are not for healthy options, there are ways to find savings on produce and lean meat. Check out local grocery ads for specials, and use your grocer’s rewards program. For example, the store where I shop allows me to load coupons to my rewards card, which occasionally includes coupons for chicken or lean ground beef. Plus, about once a month I receive personalized coupons that usually include savings on produce and other healthy items I frequently buy.
- Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season. I’m really good at this one, and it drives my husband crazy, especially when he wants strawberries in January. Not only will the produce be fresher and taste better, in-season fruits and vegetables also tend to be cheaper and you can usually catch them on sale. Check out local farmers markets if you’re not sure which fruits and vegetables are in season. You’ll likely find good deals there too.
- Start a home garden. My husband is really into this. While the initial investment can be a little high depending on how “fancy” you want your garden to be, in the long run you’ll save money on produce you purchase regularly. Our starter garden includes just the basics: tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and a variety of herbs. Fresh veggies taste great, and if you get the kids involved in the growing and care process, you may have better luck at getting them to try new vegetables.
Bonus tip: If you have children, get them involved in meal planning and preparation. They’ll be helping you choose meals they want to eat and learning how to prepare nutritious meals. My parents did this with my sister and me and it helped both of us learn how to cook and try new foods.